Perched inside an open bay window of Cogito Coffee on Dezelica, a residential corner near the Croatian National Theatre, you’ll see families walking their dogs pass by as the sun begins to set. Locals who took their seats earlier in the afternoon have staked out the terrace and linger over their cigarettes, entrenched in conversations and smiles, though the coffee cups have long been empty.
Though Balkan coffee itself might be more famous in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, is home to a deeply entrenched culture of life over coffee. The drinks are similar to those found in Italy or Austria because Zagreb inherited the culture during its time under the Austro-Hungarian Empire – which designed and built the capital city to be a “little Vienna.”
Café culture is something to be experienced by all, yet is marveled at by travelers to Zagreb. Purgers, or Zagreb natives, can be found sitting at a table sipping an espresso most any time of day, and for hours at a time. While locals enjoy their slower pace of life, those new to the city are fascinated by the flexible lifestyle.
Coffee is more than a morning ritual or caffeinated necessity. Here, it is a social lifestyle. Whether going for a date, catching up with friends or closing a business deal, coffee talk is often wide and long. With the help of a few tips, visitors will feel at home navigating the many café-bar options that line the streets of Zagreb.
Smoking is another vice and pastime of Croatia, so choose to stop at a modern café to avoid indoor smoking. Traditional café-bars often allow indoor smoking, though both types of bars only serve coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and occasionally sweets.
A favorite weekly custom, spica, is a Saturday morning promenade that occurs along Tkalčića street. Choose a café and take a seat to watch the best-dressed stroll by.